blood pressure

The Latest Research Highlights at the American Heart Association

americanheartassociationIn its efforts to save lives by improving cardiovascular-related care, the American Heart Association (AHA) aims to advance medical research in cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. The organization also supports research to develop prevention strategies and establish guidelines to help heart patients and other individuals improve and maintain their heart and brain health.

Since its founding more than nine decades ago, the AHA has invested over $4.1 billion in research that has led to a number of medical breakthroughs. Previous research funded by the organization has spurred the development of lifesaving drugs and treatments that are still in widespread use. The following provides an overview of how some of the organization’s recent activities are making an impact.


Advancing Understanding and Treatment of Congenital Heart Defects

Alongside the Children’s Heart Foundation, the AHA is supporting research to better understand and treat congenital heart defects (CHD), the leading cause of birth-defect-related deaths among infants born in the United States. The Children’s Heart Foundation and the AHA joined forces as part of their Congenital Heart Defect Research Awards program, established in 2014.

The AHA and the Children’s Heart Foundation have announced the recipients of the fourth round of funding offered through the CHD Research Awards. The seven research programs selected for the round of funding will receive a total of $826,600. To date, CHD Research Awards have provided more than $3.2 million to researchers in the United States, and funding for the program will continue through June 2021. Ultimately, the seven-year initiative will provide $22.5 million to advance CHD-related research.


Identifying Risk Factors for Heart Disease

heartEstablishing and promoting prevention strategies, treatments, and lifestyle changes to reduce the effect of heart disease is a major part of the AHA’s work. To help identify factors that play a role in heart-related health issues, the organization supports research focused on heart disease risk. The AHA and other groups have long associated unhealthy weight with heart attacks, but recent research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that waist and hip size may have a stronger association with heart attack risk than overall obesity.

Researchers in the study, which examined 500,000 adults in the UK, found that fat distribution around the abdomen is hazardous in both sexes, but it appears to have a more profound effect on women. The AHA notes that the distribution of fat and the differences in body types between men and women may play a role in heart attack risk later in life. The organization also suggests that future studies examining sex-specific interventions for obesity could help reduce the rates of heart disease.


Promoting the Use of Automated External Defibrillators

An automated external defibrillator (AED) delivers an electrical shock to restart the heart of a person in cardiac arrest. Recent research published in the AHA journal Circulation highlights the importance of AEDs in saving lives as well as the need for increased distribution and awareness of the devices.

According to the cardiac arrest chain of survival protocol established by the AHA, when attempting to save the life of someone whose heart has stopped beating, bystanders should employ an AED, after calling 911 and initiating CPR. The AHA is working to promote the use of AEDs through research and campaigns such as its Workplace Safety Training Initiative, launched in 2017. Leaders at the AHA are using the campaign and related activities to urge those in charge of businesses and other public buildings to place AEDs next to fire extinguishers so that bystanders can easily find them in an emergency.


Establishing New High Blood Pressure Guidelines

blood pressureBased on the review of more than 900 published studies, scientists and health experts with the AHA, American College of Cardiology (ACC), and nine other health organizations published new high blood pressure guidelines for the first time in 14 years. The new guidelines, which the AHA and ACC released in late 2017, call for interventions at 130/80 mm Hg rather than 140/90. Under the new changes, the number of people diagnosed with high blood pressure will increase by 14 percent. The increase will be most prevalent among people under the age of 45.

Although the changes to the guidelines will lead to more hypertension diagnoses, the number of those requiring antihypertensive medication will not increase significantly. The new guidelines recommend that physicians address Stage 1 hypertension with lifestyle changes and prescribe medications only those at high risk of a cardiovascular event due to other factors.

High blood pressure damages the vascular system and plays a significant role in increasing heart attack and stroke risk. In lowering its definition, the AHA is promoting earlier treatment that could save lives by preventing blood-pressure-related health complications.


Outstanding Ways Big Corporations Boost Boys and Girls Clubs

boysandgirlsclubFor more than 110 years, Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) has worked to improve the lives of the country’s youth through a variety of programs and activities. With a goal to engage, inspire, and empower Club members, the organization advances programs in areas such as education, sports and recreation, health and wellness, and career development. Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the country also offer programming focused on character, leadership, and the arts.

In order to continue offering programs for kids and teens of all ages, BGCA relies on the ongoing support of individual volunteers and corporate partners. Today, corporations from all areas of business are boosting BGCA to new heights by directing awareness and funds toward its work.

The following activities provide a glimpse at how members of the corporate world are advancing BGCA’s mission to help young people mature into productive, caring, and responsible adults:

Coca-Cola and Family Dollar Team Up for National Fundraising Campaign

In early 2018, The Coca-Cola Company and Family Dollar Stores launched the Make Every Sip Count campaign to raise money for BGCA programming. As part of the yearlong fundraiser, Coca-Cola and Family Dollar is giving Boys and Girls Clubs 15 percent of the purchase of every Coke product sold at Family Dollars throughout the country. The campaign, which runs throughout 2018, will provide up to $1 million for Clubs nationwide.

Make Every Sip Count is just one of the latest ways that Coca-Cola and Family Dollar have supported BGCA’s work. A longtime BGCA partner, Coca-Cola has been uplifting youth through its support of Boys and Girls Clubs for more than seven decades. Family Dollar’s efforts as a BGCA supporter have included online giving campaigns and fundraising partnerships that have raised more than $1 million over the last several years.

Raytheon Commits Millions of Dollars to After-School Programming

A member of BGCA’s Second Century Society group of corporate partners, Raytheon is one of nine organizations that have donated between $5 million and $10 million to help Boys and Girls Clubs attain its mission goals. In 2015, the company selected BGCA as one of the beneficiaries of its five-year, $10-million initiative to help military families. As part of the initiative, Raytheon has committed $5 million to create 22 BGCA-affiliated Centers of Innovation in communities with a strong military presence.

At the Centers, youth that includes mostly children of military families can take part in after-school activities focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. Raytheon has opened Centers of Innovation in a number of US cities, including Aberdeen, Maryland; Huntsville, Alabama; and Chula Vista, California. The company has also opened a Center in Hawaii and one overseas at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Samsung Encourages Youth to Take Action against Climate Change

Since 2015, Samsung has been partnering with BGCA on the Climate Superstars Challenge, a national competition that teaches youth about the environment and how they can work to protect it. Each year, Samsung invites BGCA members 11 to 13 years of age to take part in the Challenge by completing a series of tasks focused on sustainability. An online gaming platform tracks the progress of participants, and Samsung awards the winning Boys and Girls Club a technology makeover.

In addition to motivating young people to become environmental stewards, the Climate Superstars Challenge helps advance BGCA’s efforts to build STEM skills. In the competition’s first three years, Samsung awarded tens of thousands of dollars in electronics to Boys and Girls Clubs in New Jersey, Florida, and Massachusetts.

Maytag Recognizes BGCA Employees and Volunteers

In line with its commitment to dependability, Maytag oversees an awards program that honors dependable leaders from Boys and Girls Clubs across the country. Launched in 2010, the Maytag Dependable Leader Award is given to BGCA staff and volunteers who dedicate themselves to helping local youth succeed. In addition to receiving the recognition of their peers, all Maytag Dependable Leaders are awarded a $20,000 grant to support scholarships for their local Club members. Over the years, the program has provided more than $7 million to BGCA youth.


Disney and Toyota Back BGCA’s Youth of the Year Program

Every year since 1947, BGCA has honored teen leaders through its Youth of the Year program, which recognizes Club members for their leadership, academic achievements, and commitment to service. Today, with the support of Disney and Toyota, as well as other corporate sponsors, the program provides scholarships to participants on the state, regional, and national levels.

BGCA awards each state winner a $5,000 scholarship and each regional finalist up to $45,000 in scholarships. The teen selected as the National Youth of the Year receives a $25,000 award that can be renewed four times up to $100,000. In 2017, Disney, Toyota, and Boys and Girls Clubs celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Youth of the Year program by awarding more than $1 million in scholarships to Club teens.

Teaching Children About Heart Health and Cholesterol

American Heart Association pic

American Heart Association

Erol Onel serves as the vice president of Heron Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company in La Jolla, California. Prior to his recent appointment, Erol Onel lent his more than 20 years of clinical and academic experience to three additional pharmaceutical corporations, and served as an assistant professor of urology for the New England Medical Center at Tufts University. Dr. Onel is a supporter of various charities, including the American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association’s website offers visitors a range of informative articles on heart health and recognizing signs of distress. An entire resource section is dedicated to keeping children healthy, and includes information on smoking, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol.

The kid-friendly information on cholesterol levels explains that some people are unaware that they have high cholesterol (a waxy compound found in the tissues of the body). Too much cholesterol can build up along the artery walls, leading to heart disease and/or stroke.

Children can monitor their own cholesterol levels and heart health by asking their parents if these conditions run in their family, and encouraging selection of foods low in trans and saturated fats. If a child’s family is prone to heart disease, a doctor may recommend a test that measures cholesterol and determines how easily fats are circulating through the blood.